Recently both my kids came home for a visit. It was an extraordinary 5 days filled with so much joy for me. I made the intention that I would try my very best to be present during this time so that I could fully engage with them and not waste a minute of being in their glorious presence. There were two moments that really stood out in the days we were together. These moments really touched a chord for me regarding all that I’ve learned as a coach in relation to staying in the emotion that shows itself and intentionally not running away from it or trying to numb the feeling.
First up: I asked my son to start the car and clean off the snow. At 19, he hasn’t shown much of an interest to drive yet ….probably the result of having the subway at the end of our street. So I was surprised when he flew out the door, cleaned off the snow and then slid behind the wheel to start the car. I looked out the front window to see what stage he was at and saw him with a huge grin on his face, car started, hands on the steering wheel, elbows locked, head bopping (radio clearly on), being a 19 year old, an adult, but with the energy of a kid still flowing through his veins. I immediately had a flash vision of him as a 3 year old, sitting on my lap in the car, as he “drove” my car around the vacant Go-Train parking lot, laughing wildly. It was his favourite thing to do. A flash feeling raced up through my core. I could have walked away at that moment; after all, I had a lot of errands to do. But, I intentionally stayed there and watched him for a few minutes. What was it I was feeling? Pride for what an incredible young man he is becoming? Pride for myself; that I was able to maneuver through his turbulent teens with my sanity still intact? Joy of receiving the gift of seeing his beautiful smile emerge again after those turbulent teen years? Sadness that he’ll soon be off living his life, possibly nowhere near me? My eyes welled with tears. In that moment I allowed myself to feel all of it. Pride, joy, sadness. I stood there watching him in the car, turning from a boy to a man before my eyes. He emerged from the car, I watched him walk up the sidewalk and as he entered the house, I threw my arms around him. I didn’t hide my tears. He asked why I was crying and I expressed all that I was feeling to him. Incredibly he stayed with me. I felt his hug returning love back to me. This is me showing up and being seen. This is me not running away. This is me not numbing.
The second instance happened when we took my daughter to the airport for her return to Phoenix, where she currently lives. Doing the strangely impersonal “Toronto” airport goodbye thing….we don’t park the car and come in with you….you’d be arriving at your destination before we’d find where we parked our car… J (pathetic, I know). As this magnificent beauty walked away with her massive puff of hair bobbing with each step, pulling her bag toward the airport entrance, she turned around, our eyes locked, she smiled, I smiled, a blow of a kiss and as we always do, the motion to catch the kiss and tuck it into our heart, and away she was off. I got into the passenger seat, tears welling. Again, I could have gone to the place that I know too well: stifle the feeling until it passes. Numb it by engaging in chit chat. But instead, I chose to stay in it. What was it I was feeling? Pride for seeing this incredible young woman who is living her life with complete authenticity, growing confidence in who she is, not afraid to move towards the path that SHE wants, regardless of what others think. I was feeling confident that I have done my job well. It’s damn hard being a woman in this world and raising a female for me has been challenging because she has consistently been the mirror for me. I couldn’t help but look at myself when things she was dealing with presented themselves. She has been my greatest teacher of life. And then there was the pain of missing her. I felt a sharp sensation in my chest, a tightening around my heart. I closed my eyes and focused on this feeling. It’s awful, but man, this is how I know I am alive. Fully engaged my life. Not numbing. BEing in my life. The thought that ran through my mind was “I can let her go. She’s always going to be with me, because she lives in my heart.” I felt a tremendous release of energy surrounding her leaving.
There are so many ways we numb so that we don’t have to feel. Some choose food, some choose cigarettes, or booze, anger, resentment, isolation, or just plain distraction. But if we can just have the courage to stay in it, we come to know that we are safe. We’re always looking for the highs, but there is beauty in the lows too. Staying in it, experiencing it, and releasing the energy around it allows us to move towards what is possible. And the reality is, feeling the richness of our lives, the good and the not-so-good, is all worth it in the end. If we just allow it. If we choose it.
What do you find yourself choosing? How do you numb? How do you overcome the desire to run away?